Craig Brown has been writing at Better Projects about the job description for a project sponsor. If you have difficulty explaining to someone what a sponsor does, I have put together a FAQ for project sponsors.
Why is a sponsor necessary for a project? To support the project team and act in an escalation role for any issues.
What makes a sponsor different to a project manager? The project manager manages the day-to-day operational issues of the project. A sponsor is responsible for making the final decision on how to proceed if something happens beyond their control (e.g., a budget, a timeline, and a set of requirements).
The project manager will discuss the options and the consequences of each. To make the best decision, the sponsor must have a good overview of the project.
How does a sponsor get information about progress? This is decided between the project manager (or sponsor) at the beginning of a project. This could be a monthly written report, a face to face briefing, or on an exception basis. If the problem cannot wait, the sponsor should be contacted immediately by the project manager.
What else can a sponsor do to help?
Assume the role of senior management in the project.
Keep the project manager updated about any developments or changes that could have an impact on your project.
Put their name on the list and help with communications regarding the project
Offer advice and make decisions
Support and/or present the case for a comprehensive budget of resources.
Assist the steering group.
Read, understand, and sign off on project documents
Anything else (within reason) To support the project upon request by the project manager.
Next Monday: Who makes a good project sponsor